Location: Hakone, Japan
I would gladly go back to Tokyo, any day. The contrast between the quiet and peace in Ueno Park, as opposed to the frenetic activity in Harajuku and Shibuya is quite poignant. What is equally surprising is that you don’t feel claustrophobic even when lost in a crowd, or lost in translation (well, almost, apart from at Shibuya station, reputedly one of the busiest in the world). However, I did want to get away from it all if only for a day.
Enter Hakone, a town in the mountains where hot springs are the main highlight. The journey to and around Hakone was in itself memorable. For only €36 you get to travel by train, bus, cable car, ropeway, and ship ( this means an hour-long cruise on Lake Ashi). There are a scattering of sights to visit, but I decided to make a relaxing day out of this so I restricted myself to the rides and a couple of attractions, namely the temples and the compelling scenery. The hot springs were indeed not to be missed!
Here are the reasons why:
1. For only €8 you can spend a day enjoying yourself in the baths (fed by natural lake water) in the specially designed gardens overlooking the mountains;
2. It is a typical Japanese tradition that won’t be possible to replicate so easily;
3. You can forget about time, deadlines, and mundane problems;
4. Your skin feels smooth and refreshed after the contrast of hot and cold water, and
5. Lunch here was equally cheap but genuine.
Anyhow, when I visited Hakone it was around 30 degrees so if you intend to go round August, that kind of climate is expected. However, here are a couple of looks you can try out for hiking and going round the town in different times of the year:
And here are some pics I’d like to share of Hakone, if only to remind myself of the incredible beauty of the place and of the fantastic time I had there!